Who Owns My Online Data

Social networks, emails, chats, and text messages have become a vital part of our lives today. We don’t even blink before posting out personal content online. We don’t even think about what happens once your private content (photo, email, text, chat, or video) is posted online or shared via a chat software like Skype or Facebook messenger). I was amazed to see that many people takes it granted as their own private property anything they post online.

As a matter of fact, once anything is posted online, it’s not your property anymore. It is probably world’s property now. Yes, that’s right. If you’ve posted a video, or a photo, or sent a text somewhere, chances are you don’t own your online life.

What? What does that mean?

Let me put it this for you in simple worlds. Once you post a content (text, photo or a video) on Facebook, Facebook can do anything with that photo or video. They can read it. They can share it. They already store it. They can keep it for years, even you wanted to delete it.

Let me share Facebooks’s Legal Terms that clearly says that they may use any or all of your intellectual property in any way they want:

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).

So, not only Facebook owns your intellectual property but it also keeps track of what kind of activities you do when you’re on the platform. It tracks your online behavior, your activities, your chats and even more.

Facebook is not alone. Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter also have the similar terms and conditions. For example, Google tracks your behavior, habits, and actions and sends data back to Google HQ and shares with its advertisers every time you use its Google Chrome web browser.

What about private emails and chats? What about sending pictures in emails? Well, that is public also. Remember, any digital data (text, photo, videos, and files) are sent via Internet transferred using public networks. Google has been known for reading your personal emails.

Here comes the scary part. Not only companies like Facebook and Google owns and use your personal property but it also shares with the USA governments agencies, marketing firms, researchers, and analysts. Even worse, some cases are found that even data is being tracked and read on network levels. In a recent investigation, Juniper Network found that multiple version of its ScreenOS its network operating system has unauthorized code to allow backdoor entries and full access to the systems.


There is nothing wrong to using social media and other online websites but one must be careful what he or she posts online. Once you post any digital content online, it is out there for the world to consume. Do not post any personal information online such as your phone number, email, credit card number, bank account numbers, or social security number. Also do not post any photos or videos or comments that you do not want others to see.

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